Non-profits and activists have been early adopters when it comes to using social technologies to organize themselves for political or social action. Yet, from what I can tell, they have largely bypassed a platform that seems ready built for the organizing mind. I am talking about Google+.
Activist Brian Gerald Murphy in an undated blog post calls it "the best tool yet available at the fingers of activists", although he evidently wrote the post before Google+ created corporate pages since he says "Unlike Facebook, which is rife with businesses, organizations, and applications, Google+ is (for now) comprised entirely of individuals."
Brian sees the obvious benefits of Google+'s 'Circles' architecture for organizing people into teams and managing different private or public layers of communications to them as well as using Google+ Hangouts for idea exchange or action planning.
A quick Google search unearths a few early articles on uses for nonprofits including this one from the always-worth-reading Beth Kanter and a lengthy post on Hangouts On Air by Daniela Capistrano. And there is Marc Pitman's book, which I haven't read, called Google+ for Nonprofits: A Quick Start Guide to Unleashing the Power of Googel+ to Promote and Fund Your Nonprofit. Most stress the obvious value that a Google+ page gets your content displayed more prominently in Google searches, certainly more than anything you post in Facebook community.
But there's not much on Google+ and political activism. And that's a shame, because I can think of at least three additional reasons Google+ could help political or social activists:
- Political and activist organizations — and non-profits — often assume ideological commitment and unanimity among people who sign up to help. (The Canadian New Democratic Party does this and loses a lot of support because of it.) Their efforts at keeping volunteers close are lame. Google+ could be used to create safe places to nourish volunteers with special access to leaders, guest speakers (in Hangouts) or organizing communities of volunteers only.
- Post on Google+ knowing that all those big-league ideas are visible to all your followers and the public — if you choose. With Facebook, your posts aren't necessarily seen by your followers because that is decided by Facebook's EdgeRank.
- Use Google+ Communities to start and sustain focused public discussions on issues, programs, problems and strategies at the essence of the organization's mission. . . and because they are on the web, Google search will find them.
Stop worrying about whether Google+ is going to beat down Facebook: If Google+ works for you — and it can — then use it.